Locals endure tough Tour of Utah race
The Tour of Utah wrapped up Sunday after five days of road biking across the state. The event featured some of the toughest rides in the country and some even tougher riders.
Park City hosted or at least started off 98 miles of the most grueling stage of the tour, a 98-mile ride from Park City Mountain Resort to Snowbird Resort with five King of the Mountains (KOMs) and 14,778 vertical feet of elevation.
"Finishing this ride," said Terry McGinnis, veteran Utah bike racer, coach, and Tour of Utah executive director, "is the equivalent to riding the Tour de France’s Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe d’Huez."
To add to the challenge of the day, 300 citizen riders, dubbed the "300 Warriors" were invited to participate in this leg of the race and got a four-hour start in front of the pros to help them complete it.
It was definitely a tough day for Park City riders Bill Demong and Todd Hageman, who finished 62nd and 74th, respectively.
The cyclists climbed five peaks, including one at the Jordanelle, another between Francis and Midway, the Alpine Loop, Suncrest and finally the hill climb to Snowbird.
Demong, who rode for the American R.A.D.D. team, said that the reality of riding far exceeded his expectations of how bad it was going to be.
"It was worse," he said.
Demong added that the last three miles going up to Snowbird was the most difficult for him. He had originally planned to try and stay somewhere between the middle and the top of the pack throughout the event but soon realized he would have to settle for just staying in the middle. He was heartened by the fact that some other pros, including some that had competed in the Tour de France were in also in his middle pack in Stage Four.
"It was good to look around and see the same guys that had been in the Tour .and say some people have tough days," Demong said.
Still, he managed to finish the race in four hours and 40 minutes about two hours less than it would take him during a normal recreational ride.
Demong, a champion Nordic combined skier, is perhaps more accustomed to flying down mountains rather than climbing up them, but he has been competing in bike races all summer and was looking forward to the challenge. Used to winning all the time in his skiing events, the tour also gave him a new look at competing.
"This was an eye-opening experience to me with bad days," Demong said. "It was good for me. Its good to have new perspective and new goals to work for."
He said that some of his struggles during the event had a lot to do with trying to find a delicate balance between his cycling and Nordic combined training. This is his first year of top-level cycling after a few years of competing on the local circuit. In the meantime, he is still the U.S. Ski Team’s top athlete in Nordic combined and continues to train in the summer. He said that in the last month he went from a bike race to ski training numerous times both in the U.S. and Europe, and the rigors of it all may have got the best of him in the Tour of Utah.
Stage Four may have been one of the toughest parts of the event, but according to Hageman, they are all demanding.
"It’s been good, but it’s been really hard," Hageman said.
A Canyon Bicycles Utah All-Stars team member, Hageman said that the first stage, a road race in Nephi, was pretty mellow, but things got a lot more challenging from there, especially the stretch from Ogden to Salt Lake, which required the riders to make the steep climb over Ogden Pass.
"The climbs were brutal with the heat," Hageman. "It was hard. It was much harder than I thought."
Demong said that it was during this stage that he realized he didn’t have the legs to do as well as he wanted to in the event.
"It was one of the hardest starts of a race any of us have done around here," Demong said.
He noted that he typically trains on his bike for about three hours at a time, while some of the pro riders are used to competitive rides that always last at least four hours or more.
"It’s a different ball game and the experts are used to it," he said.
The second stage was where Parkite Gardie Jackson, who was also riding for American R.A.D.D., had to drop out of the event due to leg cramping.
Friday night was a criterium in downtown Salt Lake where 10,000 fans gathered to cheer the cyclists on.
"You know, there were a lot of people down there," Hageman said. "There was a lot of support."
Both Hageman and Demong had this race circled on their calendars as "the big one," The opportunity to compete alongside Olympians, Tour de France riders and others pros in such a difficult event was something that both of them looked forward to.
"It’s fun to be a local amateur and share the road with the best in the country," Hageman said.
"It a chance to share ideas and experience," Demong added.
Most of all, they were just happy to complete the race in a successful fashion.
"After experiencing near physiological breakdown on Thursday and being able to suck it up and finish was a mental victory for me." Demong said. "It becomes a spiritual and self-discovering experience."
Riding with a cure in mind
Another Park City resident, Sue Morgan, also participated in the tour of Utah in her own way. Morgan acted as all-around host for the Team Type I team, which is affiliated with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Ride for the Cure National Program. Morgan, whose teen son Alan is living with Type I diabetes, has been involved with the program for years participating in Ride for the Cure races around the country each year. That is why she rallied behind fellow foundation member Phil Sutherland when he decided to put together a pro cycling team a few years ago. Her duties this week included securing lodging for the team through Identity Properties and Coalition Management and preparing a pasta dinner for the team riders and families of kids living with Type I diabetes.
At least one member of the Type I team has Type I diabetes and the team shares a message of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and staying competitive while living with the disease.
The Type I team used the tour of Utah to prepare them for the Tour of Ireland, another tough stage race coming up soon. The team even boasted the third place overall finisher, Glen Chadwick, who flew home from competing in the Olympics for his native New Zealand to be in the race. He also won the KOM jersey.
For more information about Team Type I, visit http://www.teamtype1.org. For information on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Ride to Cure, visit ride.jdrf.org. The Salt Lake chapter will hold a ride over Labor Day.
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